Although it still hasn’t reached space, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo flew slightly longer and higher than it did on its first powered flight in April – and this time it also deployed a safety mechanism called feathering as it descended back through Earth’s atmosphere.
The launch began at approximately 8 am local time yesterday, when the company’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft took off from Mojave, California. Once it reached an altitude of 14 kilometres, the carrier released SpaceShipTwo to fly by its own rocket power.
The spaceship then broke the sound barrier, accelerating to Mach 1.43 and reaching a maximum altitude of 21 kilometres. The engine burn lasted 20 seconds. That’s 4 seconds longer and about 4 kilometres higher than last time, on SpaceShipTwo’s first flight.
The craft’s rockets will have to sustain a 70 second flight to reach space, but Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson was excited nonetheless. “This is a giant step,” he wrote on his blog on Thursday. “Our spaceship is now the highest commercial winged vehicle in history!”
For an onboard view of the flight, you can watch this video shot from the rocket’s tail. …
I’ve been very positive about rocket and space travel for years, so it was disappointing to recently learn that each rocket launch depletes the ozone layer, that a flurry of launches planned by SpaceX will have a tremendous impact and that without that natural sun screen, life on earth would not survive.
We need some kind of accord while the ozone layer is still able to recover.
Perhaps we just need to offset the effects of each rocket launch with something that regrows the ozone layer…. is there such a thing? The ozone layer is continuously created by solar radiation impacting O2 in the upper atmosphere.
The primary source of ozone in the ozone layer is the interaction between UV-C radiation from the sun and O2 in the atmosphere. The UV-C radiation splits O2 molecules creating free O atoms. These individual atoms then eventually join other O2 molecules to create O3 (ozone). Since the Sun is always shining, ozone is constantly being produced in the atmosphere. …
The problem is not creating ozone, but rather avoiding its depletion (by chemical reactions with other gases in the atmosphere). The Montreal Protocol banned the manufacture and use of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) which were responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer. …
If we space our rocket launches out enough, we should be okay, but this will require awareness, acknowledgement, international coordination and really an ability to curb greed driving a push for thousands of rocket launches to install a super fast space-based Interent.
A new study predicts that Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer will suffer significant damage from future unregulated rocket launches. The study provides a market analysis for estimating future ozone layer depletion based on the expected growth of the space industry and known impacts of rocket launches. The increase in launches could cause ozone depletion that eventually could exceed ozone losses from CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) which were banned in the 1980’s. “As the rocket launch market grows, so will ozone-destroying rocket emissions,” said Professor Darin Toohey of CU-Boulder’s atmospheric and oceanic sciences department, a member of the study. “If left unregulated, rocket launches by the year 2050 could result in more ozone destruction than was ever realized by CFCs.” The study says more research should be done on how different rockets affect the ozone before imposing stricter regulations on chemicals used in rocket fuels.